HOUSTON – “I’m on track to finish in 2018 for my masters in social work,” said Loretta Ray.
It's an impressive feat for anyone, but for Ray, it is the capstone to turning her life around. Her story begins when she was quite young.
“My mother at some point became addicted to drugs and alcohol herself and so my grandmother was that guardian in my life,” Ray said.
But around the age of 12, she rebelled and moved in with her mom who she thought had cleaned up.
“When I got over there my mother was still using," Loretta recalls. "I began to run away... eventually I was able to leave and I stayed out there.”
At 14,she was living on the streets and did so for 17 years.
“The drugs, the promiscuity. I ended up going to jail many many times,” Ray said.
She found her way to the Salvation Army's Sally's House, which is a transitional housing program for women who are recovering from drugs and alcohol.
“We try to teach them there’s a whole different way of thinking, a more positive way of thinking,” said Stephanie Sykes, lead case management specialist at Sally's House.
Ray completed the program, eventually moving into an apartment with her two kids and meeting her husband. However she wasn't done with Sally's House.
“I think it was three different times she applied for employment here," Sykes said.
“I was willing to do whatever it took to get in the door,” said Ray.
She wanted to become a counselor and help others like herself.
“It’s an emotional thing when you see people grow and become the beautiful women that they are, and Loretta has grown tremendously,” Sykes said.
“I don’t have to be ashamed of what I went through, it is my story, I did go through those things, but that doesn’t define who I am today," Ray said.